Saturday, July 14, 2007

Green Autos in the Times: Hybrid Hype, Hydrogen Hooey and Electric Dreams

A number of articles about "green cars" worth perusing in Saturday's New York Times Automotive section. Usually devoted to crass boosterism of America's largest manufacturing industry, these articles still contain a lot of that.

Especially as displayed in Adam B. Ellick and Don Sherman's moronic and facile hydrogen vehicles video shot in the New Jersey field where the Hindenberg met its firey demise. (The Future of Hydrogen: Once a Pariah, Now an Alternative.) Not a mention of where the hydrogen is meant to come from, nor problems with storage. Just a chicken and egg problem according to the makers of this little vid - not acknowledging the million dollar chicken nor the $10/gallon fossil-fuel-derived eggs. Though they do recognize commercialization is at least decades away.

Toyota comes in for a smackdown by Lawrence Ulrich (Conspicuous Consumption With Green Illusions) on it's high class hybrids. Writing about the $121,000 Lexus LS 600h L:
"th[is] hybrid may have set a new standard for automotive hyperbole. Behind its green Teflon shield, the Lexus proved to be just another overstuffed sedan that can barely top 20 miles a gallon."
The meme of the ugly green car gets its own article (Once Frumpy, Green Cars Start Showing Some Flash). Author Phil Patton derides the design of anything "green" that actually hit the market, and suggests beauty in drawing board designs that will never come to showroom. Chris Paine (Who Killed the Electric Car?) is quoted in the leadoff position to suggest even advocates of electric cars understand the product has been too ugly for the masses.

Electric cars get their own piece by Kevin Cameron, (Electric Cars Nearly Ready, but Batteries Are Less So) as the Tesla can't be ignored at this point. After all, rich dudes that read the Times from CEOs to Arnold himself have plunked down $100K. So it is a photo of the Tesla Roadster that graces this article despite its message that electrics remain not ready for prime time because GM and Toyota say so. Despite the imminent release of the Lithium powered Tesla, you have to read to paragraph #15 to find mention of the car. The first 14 paragraphs spread the confusing tale of battery types and energy densities, never mentioning NiMH 140 mile range EV1s (all crushed) or 120 mile range Toyota RAV4 EVs still on the road after over 100,000 miles. The reader is just meant to be left with the impression that Big Auto is still trying but the dang technology just isn't good enough or safe enough or cheap enough to market. The Volt remains a dream, and a new generation Prius (read plug-in) just have to wait for the perfect Lithium battery. Nickel Metal Hydride which successfully powered the great electrics of the decade past and work fine in every hybrid on the road just won't cut it. Just because they say so.